handwriting My four favorite writing tools as a freelancer

These are the tools one freelance writer uses all the time. Plus a bonus tool!

If you're a freelance writer, content creator, or storyteller, then writing tools are your bread-and-butter applications. I mainly write tutorials, articles, courseware, and labs in the Information Technology realm. I spend my days generating my own text or editing the works of others, so I decided to share my chosen writing utilities. Perhaps my list will motivate you to try one of these. Better yet, it may prompt you to comment on this article with your own preferred tools.

Here are my four favorite writing tools. Read to the end to discover a fifth bonus tool!

Microsoft Word

This entry should come as no surprise. Microsoft Word is the universal word processing tool alongside Excel, PowerPoint, and other Microsoft Office programs. I often use Word to generate and format my own articles or submit writing assignments to the various organizations for which I contract. I freely admit to only using a fraction of this powerful program's features, but handling topic headers, fonts, bullet points, and other general formatting components takes you a long way.

screenshot of Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word is a ubiquitous writing tool

I also use Word templates to standardize article pitching, making generating business much easier and more professional.

Honorable mention: LibreOffice Writer

I generally prefer free and open source software (FOSS), so LibreOffice Writer gets an honorable mention. Consider the LibreOffice suite if you like to support open source projects.


Word processors are certainly useful, but text editors are essential for administrators and developers. It's been over 20 years since I began working with Vim. These days, I still use Vim to generate basic documents, demonstration files, code samples, and more. I don't always want to be distracted by all the features of a full-blown word processor. Vim lets me focus on one thing: writing. I may pull the content into other programs later for revision and formatting, but much of my work starts in Vim. Begin by learning the basics of Vim and progress from there.

screeshot of Vim

The Vim text editor is powerful and flexible but includes a steep learning curve

Vim is usually the second program I install on new computers (the Chrome browser is the first). I even use it on my Mac and Windows boxes.

Honorable mentions: Nano and Notepad++

I also use Nano regularly on Linux systems, though it's not my preferred Linux text editor. Nano is quick and easy, with less of a learning curve to create, edit, and save files than Vim. If you are a Windows user, check out the Notepad++ editor. It's feature-rich without being overwhelming.

Visual Studio Code

I'm certain I don't use Visual Studio Code the way Microsoft envisioned. I mainly rely on it as a way of stripping formatting from documents so I can cleanly import them into other programs. Sure, I generate code snippets, edit JSON and YAML docs, and mess with Python in Visual Studio Code, but I find it great for genericizing content.

screenshot of Visual Studio Code

An HTML code snippet in the powerful and extensible Visual Studio Code tool


I've dabbled in fiction over the years, and, in doing so, discovered Scrivener. This program is a fantastic book authoring resource, especially for fiction writers. It has unique and power features for managing characters, organizing chapters, viewing outlines, brainstorming, and more.

Are you writing the world's next best-seller? Check out Scrivener.

screenshot of Scrivener

Scrivener is a great tool for organizing long and complex writing projects

Bonus tools: Spiral notebooks and four-color pens

My final tool actually combines two not-so-cutting-edge technologies: Pen and paper. Even with all the online solutions, SaaS resources, and wonderful programs, sometimes, nothing beats just writing it down.

I regularly use spiral notebooks and four-color pens to organize my thoughts, draft initial outlines, take meetings in notes, etc. I grew up this way, so I write quickly and have my own abbreviations and shorthand. Color coding my notes makes it even easier.

photo of a pen and notebook

Oldies but goodies: Ye olde pen and paper

The final word

I doubt that many non-IT writers are familiar with Vim or Visual Studio Code. They certainly won't be useful in every field, but they're helpful in my niche. Non-fiction authors probably haven't seen Scrivener, either. Perhaps these tools will inspire you to investigate other writing utilities.

Now I'm off to order more pens.